Massey Energy Attorney Says Judge Was Biased Against Coal Expert Witness in $76M Judgment

Massey Energy Co. hopes to reverse the 2002 $76 million judgment against them by arguing that a Virginia lawsuit previously addressed the underlying coal contract dispute. Massey attorney D.C. Offutt said the Virginia case, which ended in 2001 with a $6 million judgment in favor of Harman Mining Co., should have precluded its Boone County lawsuit. Offutt alleges bias by Lincoln County Circuit Judge Jay Hoke saying that Hoke appeared to aid Harman by cross-examining several of its expert witnesses. Offutt also argues that Hoke wrongly excluded a Massey coal expert witness. also writes:

‘I think he interjected himself too much in this case and became an advocate,’ Offutt said. ‘If you look at his questioning, I don’t think it was impartial. I think it in many ways helped the plaintiffs.’ Justice Robin Davis asked Harman’s lawyer about Hoke’s conduct. She cited a recent Supreme Court ruling that reversed a case because of a judge’s questioning from the bench. ‘I think the question there is whether the judge engaged in rehabilitating witnesses,’ Justice Joseph Albright said at one point. ‘I think Justice Davis’ question is fair in that regard.’